In the first half, Michigan yielded 200 rushing yards, including 143 to tailback Jonathan Taylor, and 15 first downs while amassing just 110 total yards and committing two turnovers. Taylor finished with 200 of Wisconsin’s 359 rushing yards.
The Badgers amassed 487 yards of total offense and limited Michigan to 0 for 11 on third downs.
Defense, play-calling and turnovers were immediate issues. Taylor scored from the 1-yard-line to give the Badgers a 7-0 lead on the game’s opening drive. The Wolverines appeared poised to answer when a 68-yard completion on their first offensive play game them first and goal. But two plays later, Michigan’s Ben Mason, normally a defensive tackle, lost a fumble on a run up the middle.
More puzzling coaching resurfaced on the Badgers’ third touchdown in the first half on quarterback Jack Coan’s one-yard sneak on fourth down. Coan dove through the left A-gap and landed in the end zone untouched. Replays showed atrocious spacing along that part of the defensive line.
It has been noted that Michigan Coach Harbaugh entered Saturday’s game with an 8-10 record against ranked teams (including 1-5 on the road) and an 0-6 straight-up record as underdogs. (Wisconsin was a 3½-point favorite as of Friday afternoon.) The Wolverines lost those six games by an average of 15.5 points.
But this season was supposed to be Michigan’s turn atop the East. Ohio State has a new coach. Penn State graduated its quarterback and top rusher. Only the Buckeyes have been sharp under Ryan Day, and Penn State is averaging a healthy 47 points a game.
Only now Wisconsin has announced itself as a major Big Ten threat at Michigan’s expense. After Saturday’s blowout, the Badgers, who had pitched shutouts in their first 3½ games, own an overwhelming 145-14 scoring margin this season.
Central Florida: The Knights had won 27 straight regular season games and continued to entertain playoff dreams heading into their showdown against Pittsburgh. A 35-34 loss extinguished that goal in one of the more thrilling finishes of the day.
After falling behind 21-0, visiting UCF stormed back to take a 31-21 lead with 6:19 left in the third quarter and was in front, 34-28, with 4:36 remaining in the game. But Pittsburgh produced the final margin with 56 seconds to go thanks to a trick play on fourth and goal from the 3.
The winning points came when running back A.J. Davis caught a direct snap and pitched to wide receiver Aaron Mathews for what appeared to be a reverse. Mathews instead pulled up and threw to quarterback Kenny Pickett in the end zone for a touchdown.
The game ended when the Knights were unable to score trying a series of laterals on the final play.
Momentum for The U: Sure, Miami beat Central Michigan, 17-12, but rather than taking positive vibes and a .500 record into an open week, the Hurricanes were left with many pressing questions after surviving at home against a 29½-point underdog.
The Hurricanes managed just 53 rushing yards and encountered all kinds of issues protecting quarterback Jarren Williams. They committed four penalties during a drive that brought the Chippewas within one possession with 3:16 to play, but Miami held on when Al Blades Jr. intercepted David Moore’s pass with six seconds to go.
Still, the offensive production left much to be desired considering Albany, an FCS program, scored 21 points against Central Michigan last month.
Matt Corral: The Mississippi quarterback from Ventura, Calif., didn’t think No. 23 Cal could take the Deep South heat. It wasn’t a good look for Corral after the Bears won, 28-20, in Oxford, Miss., marking the first time since 2010 a Pac-12 school defeated an SEC team on the road.
“They’re used to the California lifestyle,” Corral told The Clarion-Ledger. “They’re not used to the Mississippi heat, the weather, the humility. The time zone is different, if that’s an excuse.”
The ending was somewhat controversial when Rebels backup quarterback John Rhys Plumlee completed a pass to Elijah Moore, who was ruled down an inch short of the goal line. Ole Miss didn’t have a timeout, and officials did not review the play before the Rebels failed to score on the subsequent final snap.
Artur Sitkowski’s face mask: After Sitkowski, Rutgers’s sophomore quarterback, threw a 74-yard touchdown pass to running back Raheem Blackshear against Boston College, center Michael Maietti became a bit too exuberant in celebrating, lifting Sitkowski with both arms and landing a right cross.
The long scoring play in the first quarter produced the first points for Rutgers, which lost, 30-16. Sitkowski finished 23 for 33 with 304 yards and one touchdown and one interception starting in place of McLane Carter, out with concussion symptoms.
Rocky Top: Tennessee doesn’t have much to sing about these days, especially following a 34-3 loss to hated Florida in which Volunteers quarterback Jarrett Guarantano was benched in favor of freshman Brian Maurer to start the second half.
Coach Jeremy Pruitt has lost to the Gators by a combined 81-24 in two seasons at Tennessee, which fell to 1-3.
There were egregious mental errors among players, such as right tackle K’Rojhn Calbert committing a late hit following a first down and cornerback Warren Burrell having a foot out of bounds recovering a fumble.
But perhaps the most comical gaffe was the Volunteers calling timeout after a television break.
The Pac-12′s playoff chances: The Utes, at least going into the weekend, were the Pac-12′s best hope to reach the College Football Playoff. The loss to USC altered those plans dramatically, leaving a dearth of contenders in the weakest conference among the Power Five.
Last year, the league eliminated itself from playoff contention by the end of September. This year, its already down to three undefeated teams — Arizona State, California and Washington State — none of whom could be considered realistic hopefuls for the national title.
Disciplined announcing: Fox Sports analyst Reggie Bush — who, thanks to severe NCAA sanctions given to USC for impermissible benefits when he played there in the early 2000s, wouldn’t even be allowed on the field at a Trojans game were he not working — helped earn one of those penalties, for celebrating a touchdown with players in the end zone.
Appalachian State: The Mountaineers blocked North Carolina’s 56-yard field goal attempt with five seconds to play, capping a 34-31 win in Chapel Hill, N.C., and another victory over a Power Five opponent.
Appalachian State famously beat Michigan, 34-32, in 2007 in what was remains one of the most unlikely upsets in college football history.
This time the Mountaineers hung on after taking a 17-point lead, getting three rushing touchdowns from Darrynton Evans in the first meeting between the instate schools in 80 years.
Georgia: With the Bulldogs’ win over Notre Dame, they kept their College Football Playoff hopes fully intact as they head toward a November slate featuring three difficult opponents — Florida, Auburn and Texas A&M. Georgia has only lost five times since the 2017 season began, but the program is still chasing its first national title since 1980.
Quarterback Jake Fromm had a mistake-free performance, as he continues to prove he’s the reliable leader Georgia’s offense needs. But when Notre Dame climbed back into the game late, Georgia’s defense prevailed and contained its visitors on fourth down.
Auburn: The Tigers remained undefeated with a 28-20 win against Texas A&M on the road, keeping them very much in the hunt for the playoffs given the remainder of their schedule.
Among the opponents, all presumably in the top tier through four weeks for the College Football Playoff, left for Auburn include LSU in Baton Rogue and Georgia and Alabama at Jordan-Hare Stadium, one of the best home-field advantages in the country.
Auburn, meanwhile, has been winning with a first-year freshman starting a quarterback. Against the Aggies, Bo Nix went 12 for 20 for 100 yards but did not commit a turnover while the rushing attack amassed 193 yards.
Joe Burrow’s Heisman hopes: The LSU quarterback continued a prolific start to this season by passing for six touchdowns (a single-game LSU record) and 398 yards while completing 25 of 34 attempts during a 66-38 thumping of Vanderbilt.
Burrow has 17 touchdowns while sitting out a handful of quarters during lopsided results, remaining at or near the top of the short list of early Heisman Trophy contenders.
The transfer from Ohio State has thrived in the Tigers’ newly installed full-time spread offense under Coach Ed Orgeron, who added former Saints assistant Joe Brady as LSU’s passing game coordinator this past offseason and paired him with offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger.
Tua Tagovailoa: Another clear Heisman contender is the Alabama quarterback, who passed for five touchdowns for a second consecutive game and became the first to do so in the storied history of the Crimson Tide during a 49-7 win against visiting Southern Miss.
Tagovailoa finished as the runner-up to Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray, now the starting quarterback for the Arizona Cardinals, in last year’s Heisman Trophy voting.
Mark Dantonio: Michigan State’s coach logged his 110th career victory for the Spartans, moving him into first place in school history, after throttling Northwestern, 31-10, in Evanston, Ill. The win came one week after a dispiriting loss to Arizona State, 10-7, when a penalty wiped off an apparent tying field goal.
Southern Cal: After a deflating loss in overtime to BYU last weekend, speculation intensified as to the future of Trojans Coach Clay Helton, who entered this season under scrutiny following last year’s 5-7 finish, and whose status seemed shakier after Lynn Swann resigned as athletic director.
That Urban Meyer, a coaching free agent, was at the Coliseum on Friday night as part of the Fox pre- and postgame announcing team added another layer of intrigue heading into USC’s game against 10th-ranked Utah.
The prospects of the Trojans staging an upset appeared to take a significant hit when quarterback Kedon Slovis left with a possible head injury on the opening drive, leaving Helton to turn to third-stinger Matt Fink, a redshirt junior who had submitted his name into the transfer portal following last season.
All Fink did was complete 21 of 30 passes for 351 yards and three touchdowns in a 30-23 win that put the Trojans in early control of the Pac-12 South with games against ranked opponents the next two weeks. Those outcomes figure to go a long way toward determining if Helton is back next season.
Boise State: The Broncos pulled away from Air Force down the stretch Friday for a 30-19 victory in what has become one of the more entertaining rivalries in the Mountain West over the past half a dozen years.
The triumph not only kept No. 20 Boise State unbeaten (4-0) but also allowed the Broncos to stay in contention as the Group of Five representative to a New Year’s Six bowl game.
Tulane: The Green Wave could have settled for overtime Thursday when it got the ball back after Houston’s tying field goal. Instead, it did this:
The Green Wave is now 3-1 and a serious threat to post consecutive winning seasons for the first time since 1997-98. Coach Willie Fritz has won everywhere he’s gone (Central Missouri, Sam Houston State, Georgia Southern), so it’s little surprise he’s revitalized Tulane as well.